Wednesday, December 07, 2005

"You mean you forgot cranberries, too?"

Thought it was time for a holiday post -- and since I didn't want to pick Pearl Harbor Day ("Pearl Harbor Day: Bombed Again!" would have been my favorite trash can punch recipes), then Christmas it is. Actually, for some reason, I've seen quite a few terrific cranberry recipes and was even inspired to locate my favorite chutney recipe ever -- Cranberry, Sour Cherry, and Grapefruit Chutney.

Michael Bauer, executive food and wine editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, devoted his pre-Thanksgiving food newsletter to the beloved Cranberry -- the season's produce in more ways than one. He suggests these tips:

-When buying cranberries, look for round, plump berries with smooth skin. If your cranberries come in a bag (and most do), a good test for quality berries is to dump them into a large bowl of water (do this just before using). Top-quality cranberries float.
- A 12-ounce bag yields 3 cups whole or 2 1/2 cups chopped berries
- Store cranberries in the refrigerator for up to one month, or in the freezer for up to nine months.
- Do not wash cranberries until just before using them to keep them at their best.
- Do not bother to defrost frozen berries before using in a recipe.
- The best way to chop cranberries is to use a food processor. They tend to roll away from you when you use a knife.

Bauer and contributors Laxmi Hiremath and Sharon Cadwallader also provide some creative recipes if you're tired of the same old same old Cranberry chutney including Hot-Sweet Cranberry-Tangerine Chutney, Cranberry Citrus Sauce, Cranberry-Carrot Relish, Honey-Spiced Cranberries, and Cranberry-Walnut Conserve. (Available at SF Gate.) And with those tips in mind, I'll be off to make chutney tonight. With a large stock pot or canner and a few Ball jars, it's easy to process small batches in jelly and jam jars for gifts. (And so many great jam and chutney recipes these days are designed to make smaller batches.)

If you're so inspired, here's my recipe to share. (Easily found via Google -- It's from Martha Stewart. I know, I know, but it works.)

Cranberry, Sour Cherry and Grapefruit Chutney

1 bg (12 oz) fresh or frozen cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of salt
1/2 cup dried sour cherries
2 ruby-red grapefruits, pith and peel removed, separated into sections

In a med saucepan, combine the cranberries, sugar, vinegar, cardamom, cloves and salt. Stir to combine well. Place over med heat; cook, stirring constantly, until the cranberries just begin to burst and soften, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat; stir in the cherries, and transfer to a med bowl. Let cool completely, then gently mix in the grapefruit. You can cover and refrigerate up to five days. (Or, as I usually do, spoon into sterilized jars filling up and leaving about 1/4 inch at the top. Add boiled lids per the jar and lid instructions, set on rack, and process for 10 minutes in boiling water in a stock pot or canner.)

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